Humans have developed many deaths and mourning ceremonies over the centuries to help them grieve when they lose a loved one. But throughout the world, the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on how burial and burial can be carried out.
The new corona virus has infected more than 2.5 million Brazilians at the end of July – more than 1% of the population, according to official figures. As part of measures to avoid a re-outbreak in March, the Ministry of Health issued strict guidelines regarding burial, prohibiting waking up and watching the casket open.
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“Normally, corpses are kept in open coffins for one day,” explained cultural anthropologist Andreia Vicente da Silva from West Parana State University. “It is normal for relatives and friends to wake up and share their sufferings and stories, and even to talk with their loved ones. They might even touch the body.”
If there is no forensic reason to prevent it, the body should be buried within 24 hours.
Special precautions taken with COVID-19 victims
The importance of recognizing death
For Elaine Alves, a psychologist and sad advisor based in Sao Paolo, the time of the ceremony is not important. What’s important is they last. “Looking at the body, recognizing that loved ones no longer react to words or contact, this all helps to understand that someone is dead. It also helps the grieving process,” he said.
But the pandemic has ended waking up for now, and the funeral is proceeding in an accelerated manner. If someone dies of COVID-19 in a hospital, their body will be wrapped in a plastic corpse bag and put directly into a coffin. If they are lucky, relatives may be able to see the coffin that was sealed for a moment before being put on the ground.
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Much of this depends on how administrators and funerals apply government guidelines, explained Vicente da Silva, who has spoken to many mourners as part of his research.
“Some of them told me that grave diggers were very concerned. Others said that they did not even have time to pray before the earth’s first shovel landed on the coffin. A woman said that her late husband had been humiliated,” he said. the word.
‘Nobody is accustomed to death’
Brazil has one of the highest COVID-19 mortality rates in the world. According to official figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University, more than 90,000 people died on July 30. The large number of agencies has forced the city government to implement measures that were unthinkable last year.
The northern city of Manaus was even forced to pile up coffins in mass graves, but stopped the practice after protests. However, mass graves continue. In Sao Paulo, corpses are now buried at night if the number of deaths every day exceeds 400.
In Manaus, COVID-19 victims were buried in mass graves
Even without a pandemic, Brazil has a high mortality rate. In the past decade, the country has witnessed around 50,000 murders each year: nearly 240 murders per million population. In comparison, there are less than 10 per million in the European Union.
The number of people who died in traffic accidents in Brazil is also four times higher than in the EU, and Brazilians are more likely to die from curable diseases because of their poor health care system. This is especially true for the poor population of Brazil, which also witnessed a disproportionate case of COVID-19.
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But the fact that death seems more frequent doesn’t make it easier to handle, Alves said. “Nobody is accustomed to death,” he said. “Every death and form of sadness is individual, especially in the case of relatives or close friends.”
“The death of others is also very difficult to bear because it reminds us of our own deaths,” added Vicente da Silva.
Digital media helps the process of mourning
Facing challenges, many Brazilians use digital media to create rituals and new ways of mourning during a pandemic. People have been communicating with isolated relatives via Skype, WhatsApp and other platforms, sometimes even saying goodbye to people on the verge of death.
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“Sadness before death before this has significantly helped the mourning process afterwards,” Alves said. However, he also said that he expects an increase in psychological trauma, which can have physiological effects and cause heart disease, diabetes or other health problems.
“If someone has a predisposition to certain diseases, it might be triggered at this point,” he said, adding that the problem was made worse by the fact that people were isolated because of a pandemic and could not find comfort in social contact. very important when someone dies. But here, the internet can help. For example: Traditional mass which usually lasted seven and 30 days after death is now often done online.
Vicente da Silva said online collective warnings, such as on Facebook or individual websites, can also help and even provide comfort to strangers.
“People who have died from COVID-19 can be seen as victims of collective trauma,” he said. “This can create a feeling of identification with other mourners and help people to deal with their own pain.”